Tide gets challenge, of sorts
by Joe Medley
Sep 30, 2012 | 5759 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones leaves the Ole Miss defense in the dust on Saturday.
Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones leaves the Ole Miss defense in the dust on Saturday.
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TUSCALOOSA — Fifteen seconds.

That’s how long it took for top-ranked Alabama to answer its first challenge this season.

That’s how long it took for a 7-6 deficit against Ole Miss to begin turning into a 33-14 victory, and what a 15-second answer it was to the one question facing the rolling Tide.

Yes, Alabama can answer a challenge.

“What I told the team before yesterday is, you know, most people get motivated when something bad happens,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They have a disappointment or they feel some kind of pain, and then, all of a sudden, they want to change and do things better, practice better, work harder, change whatever and listen to what the coach says and all of those kind of things.

“But we really haven’t had that circumstance.”

OK, so Ole Miss’ brief stay on the up side of the scoreboard Saturday was hardly a challenge that carried into the fourth quarter. It was 27-7 by halftime.

That brought Alabama’s combined halftime score through five games to 133-14. It’s 51-7 over two SEC games.

Like all worries anyone can manufacture about this Alabama team, a “challenge” is relative.

But it’s worth noting that Alabama trailed in regulation for the first time since the Tennessee game in 2011.

It’s worth noting that Alabama had to come from behind after its defense gave up a rare touchdown drive. Early in the second quarter Saturday, Ole Miss drove 75 yards in 13 plays and four minutes and 23 seconds.

When running back Jeff Scott crossed the goal line, the Rebels, a 31-point underdog, led Alabama 7-6 at 13:40 of the second quarter.

In Bryant-Denny Stadium, no less.

So there it was, such that it was --- the challenge everyone has awaited.

It was over at 13:25, when Christion Jones crossed the opposite goal line on a 98-yard kickoff return.

It was actually over before then. Jones had nothing but green grass and white lines in front of him by the time he crossed the Alabama 30-yard line.

Then Alabama’s defense came out with adjustments to Ole Miss’ fast-paced, spread offense, changing looks as fast as Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace could call audibles.

One scenario saw Wallace change three times, only to get sacked by two unblocked Alabama blitzers to his blind side.

Then Alabama chased Wallace from the pocket, inducing a forced throw. Dee Milliner intercepted the gift, setting up A.J. McCarron’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.

Then a pressured Wallace threw a ball up for grabs for Alabama’s Robert Lester, who intercepted it. Lester fumbled away the return, but Alabama’s Deion Belue intercepted a Randall Mackey pass three snaps later.

Yes, that Deion Belue … the one that gave up Wallace’s 31-yard pass to Donte Moncrief to key Ole Miss’ touchdown drive.

Alabama drove 68 yards in 13 plays for McCarron’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Cooper, and it was 27-7 at 1:37 of the second quarter.

Yes, Alabama turned a challenge into a rout in 12:03.

The Crimson Tide turned a game like no other this season into a game like all the rest in less time than it takes GEICO to take your application.

How will Alabama answer if challenged this season? Quickly.

That’s not to say Alabama was flawless. After settling for field goals four times against Florida Atlantic a week prior, the Tide did again Saturday.

“The last couple of weeks, we’ve settled for too many field goals too many times,” Saban said. “That’s something that we probably need to improve on, use this bye week to improve on.”

Belue getting beat is nothing new. He gave up one of Michigan’s two deep passes in the season-opener.

Alabama’s offense spent the third quarter in sleep mode, and Wallace found rhythm and teammates again. He converted a fourth down and driving Ole Miss 70 yards in 16 plays to a third-quarter touchdown, Mackey’s 12-yard run.

Ole Miss became the second team this season to score twice against Alabama and the first to do it on sustained drives. That, no doubt, will give Saban something else to fret during the coming bye week.

“Defensively, we were in some tough spots out there,” Saban said. “It’s very difficult to ever sub players (against Ole Miss’ no-huddle spread). At times, I think we got tired on the longer drives.

“We weren’t ready to play on that first touchdown on their first drive. Guys were still looking at the bench, trying to get a signal.”

But Alabama answered Ole Miss’ touchdowns. It took longer the second time --- 9:16, to be exact --- but McCarron led a methodical, 13-play, 51-yard drive leading to a Jeremy Shelley field goal.

Then Alabama added another with 1:41 to play, after a drive of 12 plays, 69 yards and 7:07.

So answered the question of how Alabama would answer a challenge … or the closest thing to a challenge the Tide has had this season.

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